How To Use Unique Plants In The Garden

by Amanda

Unique Plants - echinops

Echinops is one of our favorite unique perennials. The fantastic globe-shaped flowers attract a parade of pollinators to the summer garden.

Although we all love the classic look that Daylilies, Hostas, and more bring to the landscape, there’s something exciting about trying new, unique varieties that can’t be found at the garden center. These unique plants create instant focal points and are often a conversation piece for visitors to the garden.

The Benefits Of Unique Plants

Have you heard the saying that people are supposed to fear the unknown? This logic should be thrown right out the window in gardening. It’s fun to embrace new, unique plants you may never have heard of. It’s also a great challenge as a gardener to take something you’ve never tried before and make it at home in your landscape. Unique plants have many, many benefits to both the expert and novice gardener:

You can’t find them everywhere. Many unique varieties can't be found in the big garden centers, as they may require horticultural expertise at their earliest stages. Look to reliable mail-order sites that employ knowledgeable staff at their greenhouses. To find varieties that set your garden apart from your friends’ and neighbors', you'll need to look beyond the big box stores!

They are easy to grow. A common misconception for hard-to-find varieties is that they are tricky and high maintenance. This just isn’t true! While getting them started may require non-traditional techniques, these varieties are just as easy to grow as any other perennials or bulbs you’ve worked with. You’ll just need to pay close attention to the planting details.

Many are deer resistant. This is a big one! Many of the unique varieties we sell are deer and rabbit resistant. This makes them a great choice for planting outside a fence for a bold statement or anywhere you have pesky critters.

hellstrip gardening - wildflowers

Red Hot Poker stands out among classic Geranium, Hosta, and Catmint.

  1. Lady's Mantle in rock garden

    Lady‚s Mantle is a classic beauty long cherished for velvety, scallop-edged foliage and chartreuse blooms. Growing in soft mounds, the light green to olive foliage is ignored b...

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    Lady's Mantle Lady's Mantle Alchemilla mollis
    As low as $13.32 Sale $11.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Lady's Mantle is a classic beauty long cherished for velvety, scallop-edged foliage and chartreuse blooms. Growing in soft mounds, the light green to olive foliage is ignored by deer and rabbits. Sprays of loosely clustered flowers create an airy halo above the plants in late spring and early summer. Lady's Mantle makes a lush groundcover and easy complement many other perennials. With a luxuriously soft, touchable texture, tuck these plants into a cottage gardens or grow at the edge of a path. (Alchemilla mollis)
  2. Summer Sun Heliopsis

    With a versatile compact form and bold color, ‘Summer Sun’ Heliopsis blooms abundantly from summer through early fall. Butterflies and native bees adore the double daisy-...

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    Summer Sun Heliopsis Summer Sun False Sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides Summer Sun
    As low as $9.32 Sale $7.92
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    With a versatile compact form and bold color, ‘Summer Sun’ Heliopsis blooms abundantly from summer through early fall. Butterflies and native bees adore the double daisy-like blooms with sunny yellow ray petals and a red-orange center, and birds love the seed heads. Flowers are produced on sturdy stems, excellent for cutting, while coarse dark purple-green foliage provides a contrast to sunny blooms. This long-blooming, drought-tolerant perennial is a native cultivar selected for its compact habit and heat tolerance. (Heliopsis helianthoides)
  3. Tall Meadow Rue

    With its large size and fine texture, Tall Meadow Rue is a great deer-resistant native perennial for naturalizing in wildflower gardens, meadows, and open woodland gardens. Purple st...

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    Tall Meadow Rue Tall Meadow Rue, Purple Meadow Rue Thalictrum dasycarpum
    As low as $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    With its large size and fine texture, Tall Meadow Rue is a great deer-resistant native perennial for naturalizing in wildflower gardens, meadows, and open woodland gardens. Purple stems hold fern-like foliage and sprays of white flowers that open in late spring to early summer, attracting native bees. Tall Meadow Rue thrives in moist, loamy soils in full sun to part shade. This towering beauty works well at the back of borders or meadows, or planted along a fence or building, and looks particularly impactful when mass planted. (Thalictrum dasycarpum)
  4. Pollinators on Purple Prairie Clover

    Purple Prairie Clover is a beautiful yet rugged perennial for dry, sunny pollinator gardens, giving long-lasting color and airy texture. On tall wiry stems, purple blooms open in rin...

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    Purple Prairie Clover Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea
    As low as $13.32 Sale $11.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Purple Prairie Clover is a beautiful yet rugged perennial for dry, sunny pollinator gardens, giving long-lasting color and airy texture. On tall wiry stems, purple blooms open in rings around dense cone-shaped heads, while narrow leaflets add fine texture to the garden. Purple Prairie Clover flowers attract a variety of native bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects. This drought-tolerant native wildflower is perfect for naturalized plantings, rock gardens, or enhancing soils in native plantings. (Dalea purpurea)

Add A Focal Point With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Crocosmia

This Crocosmia planted with classic Hydrangea elevates the garden to something unique and professional-looking.

Unique plants are an easy way to add a showy focal point to the garden, especially if you’re working with a small landscape. If your garden space is limited, plant unique varieties like spikey-bloomed Sea Holly, or low-growing Anemones to create a big, bold statement. Even if you choose just one unique variety for your small space garden and fill in the rest with classic favorites, that one focal point will go a long way in elevating your garden.

The same principle goes for larger gardens; if you’re looking to create a focal point in your garden, add a unique and conversation-worthy variety. For larger spaces, you may want to plant a grouping of 5 or more plants to add that “wow” factor and not let the unique variety get lost in the rest of your garden.

Create Symmetry And Cohesion With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Anemones

Anemones are a low-growing bulb that can be planted both in the spring and fall. The colorful blooms are deer resistant and great for small space gardens.

Unique plants can also be used in existing garden beds to create symmetry and cohesion. This is an easy way to achieve a professionally-designed look in your garden beds. Choose one or more unique varieties and plant them in groupings (3-5), repeating the same throughout your garden beds. You can do this with almost any perennial variety, but unique plants instantly make your garden stand out.

When you use plants to add cohesion to the garden, you have several options.

  • You can plant them in groupings randomly throughout the garden. Or, you can choose to add them in the center and flanking both ends of the garden for a more symmetrical look. The choice is up to you and your garden style.
  • If you’re looking for a more formal look, you may want to use symmetry in your groupings.
  • If you prefer a wild or informal garden, simply placing the groupings throughout the garden will help to add the cohesion you're looking for.

Unique Plants For Woodland Areas

Unique Plants - shooting star

Shooting Star is a native perennial that thrives in shade to partial sun, offering up delicate white, lavender, or pink blooms in the spring months. The smaller size makes it perfect for a small space shade garden.

If you want to create a big statement in your shade garden, there are a variety of unique plants that thrive in wet, shady areas. These are a great alternative (or addition) to the classic Bleeding Hearts, Hostas, and Ferns that often fill in the shade garden. Many of these woodland plants are native and bloom very early in the season, extending the interest in your garden.

  • Jack in the Pulpit’s uniquely-shaped foliage and brilliant red berries make this a fantastic early spring beauty.
  • Black Cohosh is a native woodland that gets to be 8’ tall and boasts tall, white spiky blooms.
  • Shooting Star is a brilliant native perennial that offers produces unusual pointed blooms in the spring garden.
  • Foam Flower’s white, feathery blooms add texture and interest to the early spring garden. Get creative and add some of these hard-to-find varieties in your shade garden to make it the star of your landscape.

Experiment With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - sea holly

Sea Holly is a fantastic easy-to-grow perennial. The blooms are so intruiging!

Whether you’re gardening in a city or have a lot of land, have fun in your garden and experiment with unique varieties. You'll enjoy the big statement that these unique varieties add almost instantly. And you'll definitely enjoy the compliments and conversations that arise when visitors spot the hard-to-find varieties in your landscape.

  1. Tecolote Merlot Persian Buttercup, Ranunculus Tecolote Merlot

    ‚Tecolote Merlot‚ Ranunculus is a florist’s darling, with layer upon layer of wine-colored petals packed into magnificent flowers. Mature petals are accented with s...

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    Tecolote Merlot Ranunculus Tecolote Merlot Persian Buttercup Ranunculus Tecolote Merlot
    As low as $15.99 Sale $13.59
    Per Bag of 12
    'Tecolote Merlot' Ranunculus is a florist’s darling, with layer upon layer of wine-colored petals packed into magnificent flowers. Mature petals are accented with silver edges, and these flowers add bold contrast to the garden or flower arrangement from late spring to early summer. Easy to grow in beds and containers, each bulb produces numerous blooms, with straight stems and an exceptionally long vase-life. Order these for spring delivery.
  2. Pink Rain Lily Flowers Close Up, Zephyranthes

    The darling, crocus-like blooms of Pink Rain Lilies are sweethearts of the summer garden. Popping out of the ground after summer rains, these tender perennial bulbs are pollinator fr...

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    Pink Rain Lily Pink Rain Lily, Fairy Lily Zephyranthes grandiflora Pink
    $18.65
    Per Bag of 25
    The darling, crocus-like blooms of Pink Rain Lilies are sweethearts of the summer garden. Popping out of the ground after summer rains, these tender perennial bulbs are pollinator friendly and as adorable as can be. Their clear pink blooms resemble miniature versions of their close cousin, the Amaryllis. (Zephyranthes robusta)
  3. Red Crocosmia Lucifer, Montbretia with hummingbird

    ‚Lucifer‚ Crocosmia is a famous hummingbird favorite with crescent-shaped sprays of fire-engine-red blooms and attractive, sword-shaped foliage. Incredibly unique, this e...

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    Lucifer Crocosmia Lucifer Montbretia, Sword Lily Crocosmia crocosmiiflora Lucifer
    $18.65 Sale $15.85
    Per Bag of 10
    'Lucifer' Crocosmia is a famous hummingbird favorite with crescent-shaped sprays of fire-engine-red blooms and attractive, sword-shaped foliage. Incredibly unique, this eye-catching plant stays lush and healthy throughout the season. (Crocosmia crocosmiiflora)
  4. Red Gloriosa Lily, Gloriosa rothschildiana

    Gloriosa Lily, also called Fire Lily, is a tropical trailing vine that produces flame-colored blooms. Perfect for growing in a pot or in the garden - just make sure to give it somet...

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    Gloriosa Lily Gloriosa Lily, Glory Lily, Fire Lily Gloriosa rothschildiana
    $23.99 Sale $20.39
    Per Bag of 3
    Gloriosa Lily, also called Fire Lily, is a tropical trailing vine that produces flame-colored blooms. Perfect for growing in a pot or in the garden - just make sure to give it something to climb on! Hardy in zones 8-10. (Gloriosa rothschildiana)
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